Overstock.com, its blockchain trading platform subsidiary tZERO and brokerage Siebert Financial on Thursday said they have signed a letter of intent to enter into a partnership to offer deeply discounted online trading of stocks, with plans to expand that to blockchain trading.
In the process, Overstock founder-CEO Patrick Byrne is seeking to sell the company’s e-commerce business to an entity that would run it or take it private, Byrne told CNBC. This would raise money to fund some of his blockchain-related efforts, he said.
Libertarian Byrne has long been a proponent of crypto-currency, saying many times in recent years that it provides the world with freedom from self-interested banks and governments. In 2014, Overstock became the first major retailer to accept Bitcoin as a payment option.
Crypto-currency has surged — in value and interest — in recent weeks. It pushed further into the mainstream when the Chicago Board Options Exchange began trading blockchain futures on Dec. 10, and has garnered a lot of attention in recent weeks as values soared to record highs.
Despite all that, the future of the technology remains uncertain. Much of its development and how it will be valued hinges on how the tech is perceived, simply as a form of "digital cash" or a deeper way to participate in commerce without the involvement of banks or governments.
Aside from Overstock, retailers haven’t participated in blockchain-driven commerce. A few Etsy sellers, Newegg and others take bitcoin, though in most cases they are likely immediately converting those payments to dollars, rendering the policy largely symbolic.
Much easier to grasp is the fact that Byrne appears to be walking away from his retail enterprise. "My goal is [within] 60 to 90 days, we walk away from this," Byrne told CNBC Wednesday.